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Australian Government Reduces Investment in Preventative Eye Health and Vision Care PDF
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Australian News
Monday, 15 December 2014

The Australian Government has reduced its investment in essential preventative eye health and vision care as a result of the changes it is making to Medicare rebates to freeze indexation until July 2018.

President of Optometry Australia Kate Gifford said that: "The announcement by Mr Abbott relating to GP co-payments contained a sting for all optometry patients – a further two year freeze on Medicare fees for optometry services, along with other allied health practitioners, until July 2018. The optometry sector will be urgently pressing the Government to reconsider these measures so that optometrists can continue to provide the highest level of care to their patients. The optometry sector already has a freeze on indexation of Medicare items that has been in place since 2012 and now the Government has extended this further. These additional freezes, coming on top of an almost 5% rebate reduction effective 1 January 2015, have the potential to threaten access to essential preventative care within every Australian community. Notably yesterday’s GP rebate cut announcement excluded the more vulnerable in the community. Optometry Australia has been calling for similar exemptions since the May 2014 Federal Budget cuts and will continue to do so with renewed vigour".

Almost half of Australia's population suffers from vision or eye health issues. Evidence shows that 80% of these issues are preventable or avoidable. Early and regular checks by an optometrist are a key part in identifying eye and vision disorders.

"We believe that the Government is putting at risk access to eye care, particularly for socially disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations. While these are often the groups that most need eye care, they are often least able to meet out-of-pocket health care costs. Yet the Government’s changes make it increasingly unsustainable for practices to accept only the Medicare rebate as payment for their services. In real terms, these rebates keep reducing while patient servicing costs keep increasing. With an ageing population, the need for ready access to optometry care will only increase", Ms Gifford said.

According to an Access Economics for Vision 2020 report (2009), the total economic cost of vision loss in Australia is estimated to be $16.6bn – this is up $6.8bn from when this study was last undertaken in 2004. This represents an average growth in the cost of vision loss of $1.36bn a year.

Online Diagnostic Tool for Medical Practitioners Created PDF
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Australian News
Friday, 12 December 2014

CoDExThe Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) has launched a free online diagnostic tool for clinicians who encounter ophthalmic emergencies. The CoDEx (Computerised Diagnostic Expertise) tool on was developed by Dr Ehud Zamir, a practicing ophthalmologist and Senior Research Fellow at CERA after extensive testing at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. This testing has proved that CoDEx provides a correct diagnosis, or a narrow differential diagnosis in over 85 percent of cases.

Dr Zamir said the tool is specifically intended for medical practitioners such as emergency physicians, emergency room nurses, optometrists, specialist doctors and medical students to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis for serious eye problems. CoDEx uses information obtained mostly from guided history taking and symptoms. It weighs the answers to reach a differential diagnosis and presents it in the order of likelihood. It is generously illustrated with photographs equivalent to what is seen by an examiner without magnification equipment.

CoDEx also offers an array of concise monographs with practical information about each of the 40 diagnoses covered, including symptoms, signs, urgency of referral and treatment. The user can choose to receive an emailed summary of the case and to provide feedback to improve the tool’s functionality.

OBA Publishes Revised Guidelines on Glaucoma Diagnosis and Management PDF
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Australian News
Tuesday, 09 December 2014

The Optometry Board of Australia (OBA) has published revised Guidelines for use of scheduled medicines which take effect immediately. The amended sections refer to treatment of patients with chronic glaucoma; accordingly the amendments apply to optometrists with an endorsement for scheduled medicines. Under the revised guidelines, optometrists can assess patients for glaucoma, make an initial diagnosis and start treatment when that is in the patient’s best interests.

Optometrists must provide a referral to an ophthalmologist about glaucoma treatment within four months of initiating treatment or earlier if indicated by a change in the patient's condition. As the four month referral is the only significant change to the guidelines, patients currently being treated independently by an optometrist for chronic glaucoma should be referred in accordance with this change at the next scheduled review, or prior, if the next scheduled review is later than 8 April 2015.

Modifying the guidelines is part of a solution to the long-standing legal matter between the Board, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) and the Australian Society of Ophthalmologists (ASO). The revised guidelines enhance the early diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma in the best interest of the public and clarify the timelines for information exchange between treating optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Optometrists with a registration endorsement for scheduled medicines are required to comply with the new guidelines and failure to do so may constitute evidence of unprofessional conduct (section 41 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law)).

The revised guidelines are published on the Policies, codes and guidelines page. Also published is a document that shows how the March 2013 guidelines have been modified.

Optometry Australia Warns Against Dangers of Eyelash Extensions PDF
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Australian News
Monday, 08 December 2014

Lash Extension AllergyAustralia’s leading optometry authority Optometry Australia warns that potential dangers associated with cosmetic eyelash extensions and the adhesives used to apply them can include infections of the cornea and eyelid, the permanent or temporary loss of eyelashes and eyelid swelling and allergic reactions (see photo; photograph credit: Medical Photographic Imaging Centre, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital). Responding to Choice magazine's investigation into the dangers of eyelash extensions, Optometry Australia's Senior Optometrist Luke Arundel said that optometrists nationwide had reported complications linked to the use of eyelash extensions.

"We first raised this issue to our members back in 2010 and since then there has been a steady increase in the number of cases associated with allergic reactions to the glue used to adhere extensions to existing lashes, the loss of natural eyelashes, conjunctivitis and even corneal damage due to tweezer injury. The eye is a very sensitive organ and vital to our wellbeing. Whilst we recommend people not to have any beauty procedure that might have a direct impact on the health of the eye, if they do insist on having eyelash extensions, they should understand the risks associated with this procedure. Repeated use of eyelash extensions can cause tractional alopecia, where the natural lash falls out due to excessive tension and weight placed on the hair shaft. This can damage the hair follicle, which can slow down or cease any further production of natural lashes. We feel very little information on these potential complications is being provided to the public and a risk of eyelash baldness would be the exact opposite cosmetic effect these people are seeking. People need to ensure that their beauty therapist has been trained in this procedure, that the equipment used has been sterilised and that the environment where the procedure will take place is clean.  They should ask their therapist what glue they will use to adhere the lashes to the eyelid and avoid places that only use formaldehyde-based adhesives as these are often linked to allergic reactions. We recommend pharmaceutical grade glues and removal solvents. Therapists must wash their hands before starting the procedure, handling any equipment and handling the eyelashes. Poor hygiene can contribute to the risk of infection. If there is any discomfort after the procedure, any noticeable inflammation of the eyelid, grittiness, blurred vision or loss of the natural eyelashes, you should see your optometrist immediately", Mr Arundel advised.

False eyelashes became popular in the 1960s, thanks to celebrities like Twiggy, and are now serious fashion accessories, worn by current celebrities such as Heidi Klum, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian. The new cosmetic trend is to have the lashes glued in place along the eyelid and dispersed amongst the natural lashes.

New General Registration Standard of Optometry Board of Australia PDF
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Australian News
Thursday, 04 December 2014

The standard for general registration of Optometry Board of Australia (OBA) for initial applications requires those applying for registration for the first time from 1 December 2014 to hold qualifications in ocular therapeutics. Optometrists who are already registered with the Board on 1 December 2014 who don't hold an approved therapeutic qualification are not required to undertake further study to maintain their registration. These practitioners will have a nototation stating 'the optometrist is not qualified for endorsement for scheduled medicines and is not able to prescribe Schedule 4 medicines for the treatment of conditions of the eye' added to their registration. The notation will appear on the public register and future registration certificates.

The notation does not affect the practitioner's scope of practice and can be removed from their record on the completion of an approved postgraduate program in ocular therapeutics. The new standard was approved by the Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council in 2012 and follows a change to the optometry courses of study, which include therapeutics as part of the undergraduate degree.

Practitioners who complete a Board-approved course in ocular therapeutics and sucessfully apply for endorsement will have this reflected on their registration, stating that they are 'endorsed as qualified to obtain, possess, administer, prescribe or supply Schedule 2, 3 or 4 medicines for the treatment of conditions of the eye'. Overseas applicants will be required to complete a period of limited registration to be eligible for general registration.

ODMA Announces 'Fabulous Friday' CPD for 2015 Conference PDF
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Australian News
Friday, 28 November 2014

ODMA 2015"Following the tremendous reception received for the inaugural conference in 2013, we are pleased to announce 'Fabulous Friday' at ODMA|2015," said Finola Carey, Chief Executive Officer of the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association (ODMA). "Eleven widely respected experts including keynote speaker Professor Minas Coroneo will deliver a wide ranging program consisting of thirteen sessions, in a one-day programme designed to meet the professional development needs of optometrists," continued Ms Carey.

On 'Fabulous Friday' there will be up to 30 CPD points on offer.

ODMA|2015 starts 8am Friday July 3, and ends 4pm Sunday July 5 at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. A program of master classes for optical dispensers and practice staff will be released early in 2015.

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